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As a teacher, you may have heard the terms multisensory instruction being used more and more frequently. This is a buzz word that tends to get thrown around a lot without full understanding of what it entails. It is a key component of Structured Literacy™ reading, writing, and spelling instruction. An extensive and growing body of research demonstrates that the Structured Literacy™ approach is effective in reading intervention for students with  reading difficulties (Birsh, 2005). In addition, newer research shows that Structured Literacy™ is a more effective approach than whole language for all students, including those with typical reading abilities (Lorimor-Easley & Reed, 2019).

In the Structured Literacy™ approach, multisensory means that instruction engages the visual, auditory, and tactile centers of the brain, often simultaneously. Students are encouraged to use manipulatives and movement to help reinforce sounds and spelling patterns. Here are a few ways that you can incorporate multisensory instruction into your reading block:

  • Use manipulatives. When you have students doing phonemic awareness activities like segmenting and blending sounds, you can incorporate a tactile experience by using blank tiles. They pull down a tile for each sound in a word and then run their fingers under the tiles to blend the sounds back together. If you don’t have tiles you can have them tap on their arms and blend or use rubber bands to stretch out phonemes as they simultaneously say the sounds out loud.  
  • Use a bumpy surface. An embroidery board is a great option and can be found at most craft stores. Have students use their index and middle finger to trace letters as they say the sound and letter name. Display the letter using index cards or a projector to incorporate the visual system as well. 
  • Use sand trays. Like an embroidery board, a sand tray provides a rough tactile surface. Have students trace letters or words as they say the sounds and letter names. 
  • Use shaving cream. Once or twice a week when your desks need to be cleaned, students can trace words and letters in shaving cream on their desk. This is a fun, messy activity that provides sensory feedback as they trace spelling patterns. 
  • Explicitly teach handwriting and letter formation. There is a growing body of research that suggests handwriting in and of itself can be a multisensory activity. Often students with reading issues as well as writing issues struggle to form letters. This extra load on their processing centers makes writing nearly impossible. By teaching explicit handwriting skills the load on a student’s working memory is decreased and they can focus on the content they need to write, rather than the writing process. 
  • Use paper with raised lines. Some research suggests that having paper with raised lines can help increase sensory feedback and make writing easier for students who struggle. 
  • Take it outside and use chalk. Using sidewalk chalk can be a fun twist on rainbow writing words and can be a great activity for a nice day. With the larger surface of the sidewalk, students can write the words larger which activates different muscle memory than writing them small on paper. Also, the texture of the sidewalk can help give tactile feedback as well. 

When incorporating multisensory literacy activities, it is important to keep in mind that they should be done regularly, not just once in a while as reward or when behavior permits. Once you start incorporating them into your instructional routine, you will find that they are not only fun for students, but also help solidify spelling patterns and improve reading and spelling skills. 

Students who continue to struggle even though they are involved in an excellent academic program may need extra help and expertise when it comes to literacy instruction. Our online program can help them with their reading skills so they can be more successful in your classroom environment. If you have a student who you think is a good candidate for our program, contact us today to learn more. 

Becky Welsch
RW&C, LLC
www.rwc4reading.com






Becky Welsch has a Master’s degree in K-8 Education. She is certified to teach in the state of Arizona and has special endorsements in the areas of English Language Learners and Reading.
Becky has worked with struggling readers in the primary as well as secondary grades. Her experience also includes intensive reading intervention both in person as well as with online teletherapy. 

Resources:

Multisensory Teaching of Basic Language Skills, Judith Birsch 2005

“Structured Literacy: A New Term to Unify Us,” International Dyslexia Association 

“An Explanation of Structured Literacy, and a Comparison to Balanced Literacy,” Nina Lorimor-Easley and Deborah Reed 2019

Images from pexels.com

Multisensory, structured language education is the most commonly endorsed and research-based approach for literacy education for students who struggle with reading. It includes methodologies like Orton-Gillingham instruction as well as programs based on those methodologies. Several years ago, the International Dyslexia Associated formally adopted the name “Structured Literacy™™” as an umbrella term to describe all programs that use a structured, systematic, and multisensory approach to reading (International Dyslexia Association). 

While the term Structured Literacy™ may be new, the approach to teaching reading is not. Samuel Orton conducted groundbreaking research in the 1920s on multisensory, systematic instruction and documented its success in teaching students with reading difficulties. An extensive and growing body of research demonstrates that the Structured Literacy™ approach is effective in reading intervention for students with  reading difficulties (Birsh, 2005). In addition, newer research shows that Structured Literacy™ is a more effective approach than whole language for all students, including those with typical reading abilities (Lorimor-Easley & Reed, 2019). 

Although the principles behind Structured Literacy™ and the methodology themselves are not new, it is also not well-known within the general education community. In fact, many schools still use leveled readers with heavy picture clues to teach reading in both whole and small groups. Phonics has become more mainstream yet is often not explicit and systematic. Teachers and educators have the best interest of their students at heart, yet do not always have the professional knowledge and resources to deliver the most effective instruction. 

In order to effectively remediate reading issues and teach reading, it is important to understand what Structured Literacy™ is and how it can be effective. First and foremost, Structured Literacy™ is structured. It is systematic and emphasizes phonological awareness, phonics, decoding and spelling along with morphology, fluency, and comprehension. Phonics follows a logical scope and sequence that explicitly teaches each spelling pattern. 

Using the Structured Literacy™ approach, students are encouraged to use decoding skills and phonics patterns to sound out words, rather than guessing at words based on context or pictures. The logic behind this strategy is two-fold. First and foremost, even in early readers, the pictures are not always a reliable way to figure out a word. For example, if there is a picture of a duck in water with the sentences “The duck swims,” a student could come up with a  variety of words that would make sense based on the pictures. Anything from “The duck splashes” to “The duck eats” could make sense depending on the illustration, but neither are correct. If students are taught proper decoding, they can read the word swim rather than guess at reasonable alternatives. A second reason that using the pictures is ineffective is that eventually the text becomes too complex to be encapsulated in an illustration. As students get older and text complexity increases, those who cannot decode often have few strategies to rely on and their reading level tends to not keep up with that of their peers who are able to use decoding strategies (Birsch, 2005). 

As a reading clinician, I can tell you that the “check the picture” strategy is very rarely effective, even when texts have significant picture clues. I have had students make wild guesses that often do not even start with the same initial sound as the word they are attempting to “read.” For example, in a book I was recently reading with a student, the text said “They sat…” the student read the words “They ate…” which based on the picture, made sense however it was not the correct word and did not even have the same initial sound.

The Structured Literacy™ approach is also multisensory. This is a buzz word that tends to get thrown around a lot without full understanding of what it entails. In the Structured Literacy™ approach, multisensory means that it engages the visual, auditory, and tactile centers of the brain, often simultaneously. Students are encouraged to use manipulatives and movement to help reinforce sounds and spelling patterns. Some programs may use colored tiles or tapping sounds to incorporate movement. In addition, during auditory and visual drills, students are encouraged to trace letters using their index and middle finger while saying the sounds, letter names, and looking at the letter. This engages all three critical areas of the brain while learning and reinforcing letter sounds, names, and formations. 

Another way the Structured Literacy™ methodology incorporates multi-sensory activities is by emphasizing handwriting and correct letter formation during instruction. Often students with reading issues as well as writing issues struggle to form letters. This extra load on their processing centers makes writing nearly impossible. By teaching explicit handwriting skills the load on a student’s working memory is decreased and they can focus on the content they need to write, rather than the writing process. 

The Structured Literacy™ framework is also cumulative, meaning that skills are constantly reviewed and spiraled in so that students have adequate practice time. Once a student learns a skill, that skill is not dropped from explicit instruction until it has been fully mastered. For example, if a student is working on silent e words, once that lesson is over the reading clinician does not move on and stop practicing. The skill is spiraled into reading and spelling so that the student can review and internalize it in multiple forms and at both low and high levels of complexity.

A final key component (for the purposes of this blog at least) is that Structured Literacy™ is delivered by a highly trained professional. Effective Structured Literacy™ instruction requires more than an 8-hour professional development where you look through the curriculum. Our reading clinicians all have credentials that align with International Dyslexia Association standards for working with students with reading difficulties. They attend professional development and engage in reading and discussing current reading research. In short, they are experts in the field of reading intervention. 

If you are looking for a high quality, one-on-one Structured Literacy™ program for a student or your own child, RW&C’s program may be the right fit for you. We offer reading, writing, and spelling remediation services. Our online program is flexible and built to fit your needs. Contact us today for more information.

Becky Welsch
RW&C, LLC
www.rwc4reading.com






Becky Welsch has a Master’s degree in K-8 Education. She is certified to teach in the state of Arizona and has special endorsements in the areas of English Language Learners and Reading.
Becky has worked with struggling readers in the primary as well as secondary grades. Her experience also includes intensive reading intervention both in person as well as with online teletherapy. 

Resources:

Multisensory Teaching of Basic Language Skills, Judith Birsch 2005

“Structured Literacy: A New Term to Unify Us,” International Dyslexia Association 

“An Explanation of Structured Literacy, and a Comparison to Balanced Literacy,” Nina Lorimor-Easley and Deborah Reed 2019

Photos from www.pexels.com

When we think of reading issues like dyslexia, we often only consider how to help students be successful in their language arts classes. However, many learning issues that are related to dyslexia  can impact a student’s performance in other academic areas as well.  Students with reading difficulties need to have the appropriate accommodations and scaffolds in place so they can truly thrive in all environments. 

Math: For many students, accommodations needed to be successful in math classes can be overlooked because we often do not think of dyslexia as impacting performance in math. This could not be further from the truth. Many students who struggle with reading also struggle with rote memory issues. This can make memorizing math facts very challenging and hinder their ability to complete higher-level problems. Often, these students  can perform more complex mathematical calculations but their inability to memorize multiplication facts makes it nearly impossible for them to do so in an efficient manner. One way to support dyslexic students in math classes is to give them references for math facts. This may include multiplication charts, number lines, or even calculators to aid in solving memory-based math problems. 

Another simple and easy to implement math accommodation is to allow students to use graph paper. Often students who struggle with reading and writing will have trouble lining up problems and organizing their work. Graph paper provides a way for them to line up their numbers so that they can solve problems correctly. If you are a teacher who wants to try graph paper with your students, make sure to teach them how to use it correctly. Like any other math tool, it is only effective if students know how to use it to help them organize their work. 

You may also notice that many students have trouble with word problems. You can accommodate them by allowing the problems to be read to them. You can also teach them critical reading skills as they relate to math. Things like finding key information and coding problems using boxes and circling key words can help students with reading difficulties be more successful in solving word problems. If you are a teacher using this strategy, teach students how to find, code, and use essential information in word problems. It takes time to teach a consistent system, but it is extremely helpful for all students, especially those who struggle with reading. 

Social Studies:  As children get older, this content area becomes very reading intensive. Make sure that all teachers are following reading goals and accommodations for all students. These may include extra time on assignments or having audio options for grade-level text. Teachers can also re-write complex passages to an easier reading level but still include all key information. 

If you are a teacher and want to try re-writing text to make it more accessible to students who are not reading at grade-level, this can often seem like a daunting task. To make it more manageable, first decide on the main idea. Ask yourself “What do I want students to take away from this text?” If you are teaching the revolutionary war it might be something like “There were many important battles in the American Revolution.” If this is the case, you are going to type out this sentence somewhere in the beginning of the text. Make the main idea obvious for students who struggle. Then you will add in details from textbook or other text that you are using for reference. Break down complex sentences. Rather than  stating “The battles of Lexington and Concord were crucial battles that showed the British that the Americans were a force to be reckoned with,” you can make this same idea two simple sentences. “The battles of Lexington and Concord were critical battles. They showed the British that the Americans were able to fight.” The important thing here is not to create a literary masterpiece but to make the text more accessible to student who struggle with reading. Once you finish, you can turn on readability in your word processor and it will give you an approximate grade level of the final text. 

This may seem like a daunting task, but the more you practice the easier it will become. Additionally, with 1 of every 5 students having dyslexia, I guarantee you will have more students in the future who have trouble with grade-level reading. You can use these resources for years to come and share with colleagues. The benefits to students are immense as it allows them access the content without their reading abilities hindering them. 

Another accommodation that can help students who need reading intervention is to allow them use graphic organizers to sequence key events. A hallmark of dyslexia is difficulty sequencing so using a graphic organizer consistently can help them understand and internalize the content more efficiently. 

Science: Like Social Studies, this subject can be quite reading intensive and difficult for students who are not reading at grade-level. One way to help students with dyslexia be more successful in science is to pre-teach all content specific vocabulary using visual, auditory, and kinesthetic processes before asking them to read it in text. Teachers may even consider having them make their own dictionary of science related words with pictures and drawings to help them remember the vocabulary. 

Another way to make science more accessible to students with reading difficulties is to break down directions for experiments into multiple parts. Children with dyslexia often have issues with sequencing multi-step directions. Breaking directions down into simpler steps can help them be more successful. 

Science teachers may also try using graphic organizers for them to categorize, classify, or sequence what they are reading. Having a consistent way to organize information can help them when they need to recall facts or when they are completing a reading assignment. 

Another way to help students with dyslexia and other reading difficulties in a science class is to find audio books of their text. Often, science text is complex and above the reading level of even proficient readers. Having audio options available can help ensure that students with reading issues are still able to access the content. If you teach science, you may also want to re-write some of your textbook at a lower reading level. Check out the directions in the social studies section for some tips on how to do this. 

Although we may traditionally think of dyslexia as primarily a reading issue, it can and does often affect all academic areas. By pushing for accommodations in other areas, you can help your child be more successful. As a teacher, you can help your students achieve in your classroom by mitigating the role of their reading difficulty and providing them access to the curriculum. 

If you have academic performance concerns about your child or a student, Structured Literacy Intervention (also known as the Orton-Gillingham approach) can help with reading success. Contact us today for more information for yourself or to pass along to parents. 

Our online program is effective reading intervention that fits your schedule. 

Becky Welsch
RW&C, LLC
www.rwc4reading.com






Becky Welsch has a Master’s degree in K-8 Education. She is certified to teach in the state of Arizona and has special endorsements in the areas of English Language Learners and Reading.
Becky has worked with struggling readers in the primary as well as secondary grades. Her experience also includes intensive reading intervention both in person as well as with online teletherapy. 

Images from pexel.com

In many classrooms, reading instruction takes the center stage during allotted literacy minutes and spelling can become an afterthought. It is often assumed that if students learn to read, they will spell naturally. This leads to many teachers and educators giving little importance to the direct instruction of spelling throughout the day. However, this view of spelling fails to recognize the vital role it plays in learning to read. Explicit, multi-sensory spelling instruction is an essential component of Structured Literacy instruction. 

Before we dive into discussing how spelling can be effectively taught to children of all ages, let’s first look at the research on spelling. First and foremost, spelling enhances reading instruction through the reinforcement of phonemes and letter patterns. Learning to spell requires explicit instruction (Moats, 1995). It is not a skill that children will naturally acquire as they learn to read. 

It should also be noted that there is a strong correlation between spelling and reading ability. In 2017, Treiman concluded that spelling knowledge facilitated vocabulary growth and increased a child’s word recognition speed. This indicates that children who are more proficient spellers will be able to read more quickly and will know and understand more words than those who struggle with spelling. An additional study found a strong link between spelling skills and reading comprehension. Students spelling abilities were correlated even more strongly with their reading comprehension abilities than automatic word recognition (Mehta et al., 2005). These results demonstrate that not only does spelling increase word recognition speed, but that it might be even more important than automatic word reading in increasing reading comprehension skills. 

The research demonstrates that explicit spelling instruction is crucial for children to become proficient readers. However, it is important to note here that this does not mean that children should be given a list a words to memorize each week. Spelling is a complex and interactive process that requires both phonological and orthographic knowledge. Put a bit more simply, children need to be able to hear, segment, and blend sounds in spoken language and then transfer those sounds to a written form. 

Like all literacy skills, spelling develops on a continuum and is not a simple process. There are a variety of skills that must be mastered in order for children to become proficient spellers. Firstly, students must have a strong phonetic foundation. Phonetics refers to the characteristics of individual speech sounds that make up spoken words. In order to represent spoken words in writing, children must be able to hear and segment speech sounds. For example, if a child needs to correctly spell the word “cat,” they must first be able to identify and segment the three sounds in the word. If a child struggles with spelling, the first issue to examine is their phonological awareness as it is impossible to be a proficient speller without having a solid understand of phonetic skills. For more information on phonemic awareness and ideas on how to strengthen it, check out our blog here

In addition to be able to produce and segment phonemes, children then have to associate those phonemes to graphemes, their written representation. This is true for all levels of spelling instruction. From simple, phonetically regular words like “cat” to advanced spelling patterns children must know what spelling patterns are possible to make that sound, which are allowable in the rules of English, and which are most common in order to choose the most likely spelling patterns. For example, if a student were asked to spell the word “boy,” they need to understand the two sounds in word are /b/ and /oy/. They then need to know the possible spelling patterns to make those sounds which would be “boi” or “boy.” Finally, they would need to understand that in written English, words do not end with the letter “i” (with a few exceptions) so “boi” is not an allowable spelling of the word. This requires direct and explicit orthographic instruction with direct modeling of how to transfer those skills from reading to spelling.

Another critical skill in spelling is morphology which is the study of morphemes. A morpheme is the smallest unit of language that has meaning. A one-syllable base word like jump is a morpheme. Other derivatives of this word can be created using suffixes like “jumping, jumped, jumps.” Phonetic spellers often spell the word “jumped” as “jumpt” because that is phonetically what the word sounds like. Explicit instruction in morphology includes systematic instruction in suffixes and inflectional endings like “-ed” so that students know even though they hear the /t/ sound, it is a past tense word and therefore spelled with “ed.” 

Direct and explicit instruction in prefixes, roots, and suffixes facilitates students’ ability to spell multisyllabic words and is critical for helping them develop higher level spelling skills. An effective Structured Literacy program includes the study of morphology at all levels. 

It is also important to understand that English is a mix of different languages. Many people, parents and educators alike, will say that certain words are “an exception.” Often times, the words they are referencing are not exceptions, they are simply derived from a different language. For example, words of Greek origin use the <ph> digraph to make the /f/ sound. Words with Latin roots make up around 55% of the language and are often comprised of a base connected with a prefix or a suffix. Anglo-Saxon root words comprise around 20% of the language and are usually one-syllable words that name common objects. They are also responsible for many of those pesky silent letters like “kn” and “-tch.” 

Knowing the origin of a word can aid students in understanding its spelling. For example, take the word “come,” it sounds like it should have a “u” instead of an “o” as the vowel. Well, guess what, originally it did. However due to scribal writing styles, it was too hard to read when it was written so the “u” was changed to an “o.” The “e” was added at the end to show its relationship to the past tense form of the word, “came.” While this may seem complicated to an adult who has the spelling memorized, it can help the written language make sense to a child who is struggling. 


Formal spelling instruction must include all these elements to be effective. It must include multiple instructional experiences with phonological skills like blending and segmenting,  as well as opportunities to use phonics skills and invented spelling in the primary grades. All spelling patterns need to be introduced directly, explicitly, and systematically while using multisensory instructional techniques. The visual, auditory, and kinesthetic parts of the brain must be engaged simultaneously during spelling instruction. Students should also have multiple opportunities to analyze and sort words and there needs to be a multisensory procedure for learning irregular words. Word sorts that are approached from a visual skill are ineffective. In order to become automatic in any spelling pattern, the students must engage all modalities while reading the word and analyzing the orthographic patterns. Simply looking at the word and transferring it to a specific column will not enable the students to become proficient spellers. 

Our online reading program incorporates the best practices in spelling instruction and uses spelling as a tool to enhance reading and literacy skills. For us, spelling is never an afterthought. Explicit spelling instruction by a trained Reading Clinician is life-changing for many of our students. We teach them the language;  we do not ask them to memorize words and rules. 

If your child struggles with spelling, don’t rely on rote memorization and do not accept the answer that it will come with reading development. Spelling needs to be explicitly taught. Contact us today for more information and to get your child the help they need. 

Becky Welsch
RW&C, LLC
www.rwc4reading.com






Becky Welsch has a Master’s degree in K-8 Education. She has completed 64 hours of Orton-Gillingham training at the Associate Level with the Academy of Orton-Gillingham Professionals and Educators. She is certified to teach in the state of Arizona and has special endorsements in the areas of English Language Learners and Reading.
Becky has worked with struggling readers in the primary as well as secondary grades. Her experience also includes intensive reading intervention both in person as well as with online teletherapy. 

Resources: Multisensory Teaching of Basic Language Skills by Judith Birsch

As parents, we are our child’s number one advocate and are often the first to notice when they are having issues. This is particularly true in the area of reading development. Often parents may begin to notice warning signs in their children as early as preschool, yet they are often told by teachers and educational specialist to wait and see. Yet, as I have stated before, this approach is ineffective for the majority of kids with reading difficulties. Early identification means early intervention which leads to better outcomes and remediation for your child. 

However, many parents are not literacy experts and don’t always know what to look for when it comes to red flags for a reading difficulty. In fact, some of you might be wondering what to look for in a preschool student because, well, most three-year-olds are not reading so how can they have a reading difficulty? 

I understand your frustration and I want you to be able to effectively advocate for and make decisions about your child. So, I put together a list of some warning signs of dyslexia at various ages. It is very important to note a few things though. First and foremost, many of us may have one or two of these characteristics that does not mean that we all have dyslexia. Usually a child with a significant reading issue like dyslexia will have multiple characteristics that persist over time and make learning difficult. It is also important to note that this list is not exhaustive and if you are concerned about your child, it is important to get them Structured Literacy intervention to help remediate their difficulties. 

With that being said, here are a few common characteristics of dyslexia in preschool and kindergarten aged children:

  • Late learning to talk and slow to learn new words – if your child was a late talker without an apparent hearing difficulty, this can be an early sign of dyslexia as oral and written language are related.
  • Difficulty following directions – if you ask your child to perform directions that are age appropriate and they have difficulty remembering what to do, this can be an early sign of dyslexia. Of course, I think all preschool parents can relate here, it can also just be a sign of being three. However, if you know that your child is not being willfully defiant, it can be a warning sign of language processing issues. 
  • Avoids letters despite being explicitly taught them –  if you have worked on the alphabet with your five-year-old daily yet they only know two letter names, this is a sign that they are at risk for reading difficulties. 
  • Difficulty rhyming – by age 4 or 5, children should be able to identify and produce rhyming words, if they cannot they may have a reading issue like dyslexia. 
  • Cannot recall letter sounds – if your child is in kindergarten and does not know letter sounds it can be red flag for reading issues. 

As your child gets older, these signs generally persist and are compounded by some of these in grades 1st through 3rd :

  • Cannot recall sight words even after practice
  • Poor phonics skills 
  • Inaccurate and slow reading
  • Difficulty sequencing – this applies to sequencing events in a story as well as days, months, time, etc. In some cases, your child may even have difficulty with words like before or after saying things like they brushed their teeth “after” they went to bed. 
  • Poor spelling skills – this is an especially important indicator if they eliminate speech sounds. For example, if the word is bend and they write bed, it suggests they do not have the phonological skills necessary to be successful without structured literacy intervention. Make sure to pay attention to this on writing assignments, not just spelling tests. Many dyslexic children can fool their teachers and parents because they have good visual memory skills so they can memorize spelling words. 

As children move into intermediate grades 4th and then into high school, many of these problems will persist and there will be additional signs like: 

  • Slow , inaccurate, and laborious reading – at this point your child is working so hard to decode words that reading fluency is seriously affected. 
  • Weak reading comprehension when compared to listening and oral comprehension 
  • Poor spelling skills and handwriting in written assignments 
  • Slow at working on literacy skills – homework will often take hours and lead to frustration 
  • Poor comprehension and vocabulary due to lack of access to grade level text
  • Needs intensive intervention to increase reading and spelling skills 

It is important to note that in many cases these reading, writing, and language issues exist despite being part of a strong instruction program or being read to by a parent. I have often heard “but my son is in a good school” or “I read to her every night.” Dyslexia and other reading difficulties develop without regard to exposure to literacy. 

If you have concerns about your child, start getting them the help and support they need to be successful. You are their number one fan and the person they need in their corner. 

Contact us today if you have questions  or need more information.

Becky Welsch
RW&C, LLC
www.rwc4reading.com






Becky Welsch has a Master’s degree in K-8 Education. She is certified to teach in the state of Arizona and has special endorsements in the areas of English Language Learners and Reading.
Becky has worked with struggling readers in the primary as well as secondary grades. Her experience also includes intensive reading intervention both in person as well as with online teletherapy. 

As teachers, we can often become so accustomed to hearing certain professional terms that we do not always consider that they are not part of the public vernacular. One example of this I saw when I was a teacher was with DIBELS scores. I would rattle off acronyms like PSF or NWF and assume that parents knew what I was talking about and what the implications were for their child. It has become clear to me that they often did not. So, to save you some time I created a handy reference sheet you can use with research supported data when talking to parents about their child’s DIBELS scores. 

It is important to know that DIBELS can also give parents some major anxiety. While it is not a perfect measure, it can be an accurate predictor of future reading outcomes, but in order to understand possible outcomes, they first must understand what is tested and what each score means. I find it helpful to go over each subtest individually with them. If you need some more information on that, this blog geared towards parents can be a great place to start. 

It is crucial for parents to understand the scoring system. Parents will need to know if their child is Well Below Benchmark, Below Benchmark, At Benchmark, or Above Benchmark. You can give them this information as well as their child’s composite score. 

Once they have the score, it is helpful to break down exactly what each one of these scores means for their child.

  • Above Benchmark: If your child scores Above Benchmark it means your child is performing well above the average for their grade level. Given appropriate core classroom instruction, the chances that they will meet literacy goals is above 90%.
  • At Benchmark: If your child scores At Benchmark they are performing at an average level for their grade. Without intervention and with only effective core classroom instruction, the likelihood that they will reach early literacy goals is 70% to 85%. Students who score at the lower level of At Benchmark are likely to need some strategic intervention to reach reading goals.
  • Below Benchmark: If your child scores Below Benchmark, it is very likely that classroom support will not be enough for them to reach subsequent reading goals. In fact, with only core classroom instruction, the likelihood that students who score Below Benchmark will achieve reading goals is only about 40% to 60%. If your child scores in this area, it may be time to think about an effective reading program for them.
  • Well Below Benchmark: If your child scores Well Below Benchmark goals, it means they are significantly behind grade level norms. Without appropriate intervention, the likelihood that they will make reading progress is only about 10% to 20%. These students need intensive reading intervention.

Once parents understand their child’s scores, they have more information and can find the best way to support their child at home. Providing intervention for struggling students supports your classroom goals and helps ensure that all of your students are successful. 

Becky Welsch
RW&C, LLC
www.rwc4reading.com






Becky Welsch has a Master’s degree in K-8 Education. She is certified to teach in the state of Arizona and has special endorsements in the areas of English Language Learners and Reading.
Becky has worked with struggling readers in the primary as well as secondary grades. Her experience also includes intensive reading intervention both in person as well as with online teletherapy. 

With the beginning of the school year come excitement, assessments, and paperwork. While you are meeting your new students and their families, you are also planning for how to maximize their success this year. You are thinking about staff meetings, lesson plans, small groups, and countless other issues. 

One important factor to keep in mind is to make sure you are watching your students for potential reading, writing, and spelling issues. As their teacher, you are often their first line of defense against academic issues and their most important advocate. 

This time of year is extremely busy and you are getting to know your students. It is incredibly important to keep your eyes open for potential reading difficulties. The sooner you can spot them, the sooner you can begin to recommend reading intervention that works. 

There are a few telltale signs in a classroom that a student is struggling. They may: 

  • Avoid participation in reading exercise
  • Read the same word differently across a passage
  • Read the beginning of a word correctly but guess at the rest of the word
  • Work 2-3 times longer (harder) to complete an assignment
  • Struggle to remember the content of the reading material because, for that student, the process of reading is so laborious

Most importantly, a student with a reading challenge may show limited growth compared to their peers in reading, spelling, or writing DESPITE participating in an outstanding academic program. 

Chances are, you have a student in your class who fits this profile. They are struggling despite your best teaching and attempts to help them. They need intervention with a Structured Literacy program. Often, this means that they need outside help. 

We all want what is best for our students. If you notice them struggling, do not wait until conferences or after winter break to bring it up to their parents. Let them know as soon as you see issues and discuss the external resources available to help their child. 

Our online program is proven and effective with struggling students. Our trained clinicians deliver one on one tutoring via an online platform. Together, we can help your students succeed. 

Becky Welsch
RW&C, LLC
www.rwc4reading.com






Becky Welsch has a Master’s degree in K-8 Education. She is certified to teach in the state of Arizona and has special endorsements in the areas of English Language Learners and Reading.
Becky has worked with struggling readers in the primary as well as secondary grades. Her experience also includes intensive reading intervention both in person as well as with online teletherapy. 

As teachers, we work with kids in many different subject areas other than reading. In the case of middle school or high school teachers, we may not even work with our students on reading at all. However, with research showing the nearly two-thirds of U.S. fourth graders are not proficient in reading and 1 in 5 students having dyslexia, it is up to all of us to be aware of reading difficulties so we can get our students the help they need

If you do not teach reading, there are still telltale signs that a student may struggle with a reading issue. If you teach a content that is reading heavy like science or social studies, you are in a prime position to help identify reading difficulties. Here are a few things to look out for in all content areas that may signal a possible reading or spelling challenge…

  • When you ask students to write an essay or short response, check their spelling on rough drafts. Here are a few common spelling mistakes a student with a reading or spelling deficit might make…
    • Spelling words as they sound (fol instead of fall)
    • Mixing up letter sequences (silp instead of slip)
    • Swapping vowel sounds (hilp instead of help)
    • Using the wrong vowel digraph (broun instead of brown)
    • Using a t instead of the suffix -ed (helpt instead of helped)
    • Misspelling grade level appropriate words
    • Words are correct on spelling test but misspelled when writing connected text
  • When you ask students to read a content related passage you can also take note of any comprehension issues. If they do not understand what they have read, it is an indication they may be struggling with reading. 
  • Notice how long your students take to complete tasks. Often students with reading difficulties take significantly longer than their peers to complete academic tasks. 

Even in math, you can help notice reading and spelling difficulties. Here are a few ways they may present themselves in a math class…

  • Trouble remembering basic math facts, especially times tables
  • Difficulty remember strings or sequences of numbers including phone numbers
  • Difficulty knowing left from right
  • Trouble remembering and following sequential directions
  • Reversing numbers (writing or reading 37 as 73)
  • Writing numbers backwards beyond when it is developmentally appropriate 

If you are a content area teacher and you notice these signs in one or more of your students, it is important that you help them get the Structured Literacy intervention they need to be successful. Not only will it improve their reading, but it may also improve their performance in your class. 

Becky Welsch
RW&C, LLC
www.rwc4reading.com






Becky Welsch has a Master’s degree in K-8 Education. She is certified to teach in the state of Arizona and has special endorsements in the areas of English Language Learners and Reading.
Becky has worked with struggling readers in the primary as well as secondary grades. Her experience also includes intensive reading intervention both in person as well as with online teletherapy. 

The beginning of the year comes with many challenges for teachers. Perhaps one of the most important considerations for language arts and self-contained teachers is how to structure their reading block. Research has shown that systematic, explicit, and purposeful reading instruction is vital for all students to learn to read. In addition, the National Reading Panel found that the most effective reading instruction requires a 90-minute time frame that includes differentiated reading instruction. 

Sounds like a piece of cake, right (that’s sarcasm there, carving out 90 minutes of a day is anything but a cake walk)? The truth is that between back to school staff meetings and meet the teacher nights, it isn’t always easy to find the time to create an effective Structured Literacy block. However, it is vital for student success. A second hurdle to overcome is figuring out exactly what should be included during your reading time. 

Lucky for all of us educators, we don’t have to figure it out on our own. We know that reading skills are a critical foundation in the pursuit of academic achievement. Early detection and appropriate intervention can improve achievement and self-esteem.

There has also been research conducted by a number of scientists and educators that have helped us figure out what we need to be doing during that reading time. Research has identified elements that are critical in implementing an effective structured literacy program. These elements are:

phonological awareness

syntax

phonics

semantics

syllable instruction

comprehension

sight word recognition

oral reading fluency

morphology

silent reading fluency

In addition, effective instruction will include spelling, grammar and syntax focus for written expression. When designing your reading lessons, it is critical that you include all components to reach all learners. By creating a reading block that focuses on the Structured Literacy methodology, you will help ensure that all of your students experience reading and writing success. 

Becky Welsch
RW&C, LLC
www.rwc4reading.com






Becky Welsch has a Master’s degree in K-8 Education. She is certified to teach in the state of Arizona and has special endorsements in the areas of English Language Learners and Reading.
Becky has worked with struggling readers in the primary as well as secondary grades. Her experience also includes intensive reading intervention both in person as well as with online teletherapy. 

For many kids, the beginning of the school year can be a time of butterflies in their stomach and stress. If students struggle with reading, spelling, or written expression, these worries can be intensified. While I am not a child psychologist, I have seen my fair share of the first days of school and kids with apprehension about their new grade level both as a teacher and – a parent. If your child is not looking forward to the beginning of the year it can cause you both to worry. Here are a few simple and easy to implement solutions that you can help calm your nervous child and set them up for success this school year. 

  • First and foremost, make sure your child is getting the support they need. You are their number one advocate. Whether that means having an IEP meeting, writing up a reference sheet of IEP accommodations for their teacher, or making sure your child is getting the Structured Literacy tutoringthey need to be successful you need to be their voice. It’s also important to make sure they know what is going on and what is going to be expected from them. Talking through their accommodations and discussing when and where things will be happening can do wonders to help calm your nervous child. 
  • Once you know that proper supports and interventions are in place both inside and outside of school, as a parent, you want your child to know that there are ways to talk about the worry they are experiencing. For some children drawing or writing their worries may help. As tempting as it is, try not to ask them to “calm down” or “not worry about it.” Your child needs a place to express their concerns through talking, drawing, and writing. Make sure your child knows they can come to you with their worries concerns. 
  • Come up with a schedule. All kids function better with structure and predictability. This is particularly true for kids who are having apprehensions about their school schedule. Talk to your child about your family schedule, their after-school activities, and any other events. Make sure to include after school tutoring if your child needs additional reading support. For some busy families online tutoringmight be a good option to get in the intervention without sacrificing too much family time. 
  • Help your child practice deep breathing skills. Once they are able to identify their worry, they can begin to use practical skills to help lessen it. One important way to calm their nerves is to help them learn to focus on their breathing. There are tons of different deep breathing techniques available on the internet and you need to find one that works for your child and aligns with your family belief system. 
  • Help your child create a toolkit for home and school. This may include some supplies like a stress ball to help them manage their nerves. You may also try using Velcro to attach a textured fabric like flip sequins to the underside of their desk. This gives them something to do with their hands when they start to feel worried at school. Having it underneath the desk is discreet and does not distract other students. For this one you are going to want to make sure it is ok with your child’s teacher. If under the desk in not an option, consider a small piece of fabric in their pocket that they can run between their fingers to help calm them. 
  • Make sure your child is having all of their physical needs met. Many stress related issues can tend to rear their heads when you don’t get enough sleep or have a poor diet. Make sure your child is sleeping and eating well. 
  • Also make sure they move their body every day. Exercise releases endorphins that improve mood and reduce stress naturally. Not every family enjoys traditional exercise but there are many fun ways to make sure your child is moving everyday. Going for a bike ride, playing outside, jumping on a trampoline, or making up silly dances to your favorite songs are all some fun ways to help your child get moving. 

These tips may help  to reduce mild angst related to going back to school. Keep in mind that many bright students struggling with literacy skills may develop stress in trying to deal with their deficits. If this is the cause of your child’s stress, we can address these deficits in a comfortable environment….your home….via audio-video conferencing with a certified literacy specialist.  If your child continues to struggle or has intense anxiety symptoms, it is always a good idea to check with your doctor. 

Once your child is able to feel calm and comfortable, they can begin to thrive at school. If they struggle with reading, spelling or written expression, it is imperative that you get them involved in Structured Literacy tutoring. Our online option is a good fit for many families. Contact ustoday to learn more.

Becky Welsch
RW&C, LLC
www.rwc4reading.com






Becky Welsch has a Master’s degree in K-8 Education. She is certified to teach in the state of Arizona and has special endorsements in the areas of English Language Learners and Reading.
Becky has worked with struggling readers in the primary as well as secondary grades. Her experience also includes intensive reading intervention both in person as well as with online teletherapy. 

Additional Resources:

https://www.psycom.net/help-kids-with-anxiety